One Runner's Take on RA
When home remodeling consultant Jody C. awoke to excruciating pain in her feet five years ago, she ignored it, as she did her swollen, “sausage” fingers, which had taken on their puzzling shape six months earlier. Athletic and active, Jody ran five miles a day, and nothing was going to stop her from heading outdoors in her hometown of San Diego.
“I went [out], and nearly toppled over,” recalls Jody, 54. “I couldn’t put any pressure on my feet and I couldn’t walk.”
A visit to a rheumatologist and several tests later, Jody was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). “I started crying and thought my life had just ended,” she remembers. After the initial shock, Jody knew that if she wanted to run again, she could no longer ignore her RA symptoms.
Jody’s number one priority? Work with her doctor to find the right treatment.
Over the next two years, Jody took a combination of medications, including a corticosteroid (to control flare-ups), a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) to prevent joint damage and an OTC pain reliever. “I felt great and started running again,” says Jody. She started to develop nodules in her fingers and feet, however, a sign the treatments were no longer working.
After three surgeries to remove some of the nodules, Jody’s doctor suggested that she take a biologic treatment, a medication that counteracts the effects of abnormal levels of substances in the body that lead to inflammation, Jody hesitated for fear of potential side effects: “She encouraged me and said that a lot of promising things are coming out, but I refused to listen.”
Jody soon changed her mind when she saw an ultrasound image of the inflammation in her shoulders, wrist and knees. She agreed to take a TNF-inhibitor biologic (which blocks part of the inflammation process) twice a month by self-injection in addition to the DMARD. “It has made a huge difference in controlling the disease. I show no sign of inflammation. I do have a little joint damage, but I have been able to stop it thanks to the new treatment.”
Today, Jody is delighted to be on a modified running plan: “I don’t run five straight miles because it’s too hard on my joints,” she explains. Instead, she does a combination of walking, running, weight lifting and other exercises. Best of all, Jody no longer requires surgery for the nodules. “Now my fingers are normal. I don’t know what the future will hold, but we’re lucky we have these biologics.”
- Take advantage of newer treatments. If one treatment stops working, don’t give up hope. Many new ones have been developed recently.
- Make your doctor your ally. Tell your doctor if you have new symptoms or if your current ones worsen. “If I had seen my doctor right away, I would have had treatment earlier and not experienced an inability to walk,” says Jody, who now schedules six visits a year.
- Tackle your fears. "I was resistant to the idea of taking a shot,” says Jody, who has reduced the pain by icing her leg for 10 minutes prior to an injection.